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Supply SOPs – Example 2: Supply Fulfillment Practices

Most businesses set up procedural policies early in the business planning stage; with practices for capital expenditures, marketing and promotion, billing, service and support, disciplinary action and payroll clearly defined. Why not print management as well?  Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for supply fulfillment help people fit puzzle pieces together.

As noted in the related Deployment for Supply Fulfillment installment, we advocate installation processes be clearly identified.  Practices in writing allow everyone to understand what is or will be needed to fulfill each task:

  • Deployment (from link, “One–Click”, USB key, etc.)
  • Challenging deployment procedures
  • Configuring software to send machine status detail
  • How to confirm use of current firmware and drivers
  • Discussions of security and web page access
  • Defining proper device placement

The Supply Fulfillment Practices 1 piece specified providers should also have written policies for:

  • Management of the Device Fleet
    • Dealing with locally connected devices
    • Working with older equipment
    • Processing equipment not furnished by the dealer
    • Handling reporting anomalies  

NOTE – When reliable reporting for the devices in the mix cannot be obtained, moving devices to the network or placement of MPS capable equipment may be in order. If connection or placement is not an option, supply fulfillment may be challenging.

  • False Positive Alerting
    • Managing received alerts
    • Spot checking volume anomalies
  • Handling Multiple Supply Item Requests
    • Receiving call-in orders from customers
    • Verifying practices to reduce duplicate orders
  • Customer Out of Stock
    • Defining safety stock practices
    • Defining “Lost” merchandise charge-backs
  • Supply Chain Management
    • Addressing supply item quality
    • Substituting or replacing supplies when contracted items are unavailable

This segment of ‘Supply Fulfillment Practices’ includes additional ideas dealers and value added resellers (VARs) should consider when putting the final touches on their supply fulfillment program.

Use of Software Alert Management tools

NOTE – Check with your MPS software provider to see what administrative tools are available to your organization. Be SOP practices are defined to get the most out the software tools you are using.

Alert Icons.png

MPS software provides information in a variety of formats. Detail may be reviewed using a number of different administrative tools. Device status can be seen in installation lists and in Meter and Service Info Viewers.

Administrators can tell “at-a-glance” which customers need immediate attention and which customers have devices in good standing. Tools are designed to assist with both time and alert management.

Many administrative utilities have features allowing actions taken to be logged. Accessible files chronicle evidence showing received alerts have been or are to be confirmed so duplicate orders are not placed.

Some software products have web-accessible “ePortal” tools. Web utilities permit field technicians and account managers to see and manage device status using mobile phones and tablets.  ePortal tools allow technicians to know what supplies are needed so they are prepared when they enter the building.

Web accessible Admin tools may also include account review abilities. While on location, administrators can activate alerts, route important notifications, review device status, manage and set parameters for individual devices, adjust reporting schedules, and create analysis reporting for simple customer review.

Operating procedures for the use of all software tools will assist administrators as they fulfill supply orders.

Supply Alert Reporting and Management

There are a variety of reports administrators can use to make certain fulfillment promises are kept. Reports can also help with daily preparation of service and supply car inventories and assist with routing. If one knows what is needed by customers before technicians leave the shop, why not leverage the information?

NOTE – Check with your MPS software provider to see what reporting options are available to your organization. Be sure to define SOP practices for using available reports to get the most out the software tools you are using.

‘Device Status’ reports can be generated for each installation or customer and can be used to determine both imminent and future need. If a device has alerted for black toner, and another cartridge or supply is within a few percentage points of required replacement, both can be sent to reduce shipping and/or trip costs.

‘Site Alerts Summary’ reports can be used to track device trending. Devices that “jam” or alert often may be a precursor of future service challenges and may even present sales opportunities to place more efficient or robust equipment.

NOTE – Be sure the SOP defines how devices are reviewed and practices are carried out for specific conditions. Also be sure notes are left indicating a “Skip alert” event for cartridges sent prior to receiving an alert.

Some software products can be configured to automatically send ‘Alert History Summary’ reports. Alert summaries list all alerts that have come in over a specified period, permitting administrators to review records to ensure nothing slips between the cracks.  Similar reports can also be requested within most administrative tools. Be sure the supply SOP includes regular review cycles for these types of reports.

Another supply related statement, ‘Low Toner Levels’ can project potential challenges. Thresholds can be set prior to building the report. ‘Devices with Missing Toner Levels’ show devices that had reported toner levels, but have stopped (a condition that may occur at low levels for some cartridges and on some devices).  Monitoring non-reporting devices is another way for supply administrators to stay ahead of potential need.

MPS administrative software should include reports for ‘Consumables’ and for ‘Device Totals’ and ‘Volumes’. Managers typically use reports such as these to monitor excessive toner use or to track early replacement; cartridges that are depleted faster than stated yields typically are shown with high fill percentages. ‘Device Totals’ and ‘Volumes’ can be used to drill down on cartridge use over time.

NOTE – The reports mentioned above may not be available in all MPS software products. Check with your MPS software provider to see what reporting options are available to your organization. Be sure to define SOP practices for using available reports to get the most out the software tools you are using. When putting together Supply Fulfillment SOP for reporting, be sure to review all reports available in the software solution that will be used by the organization. Include a description of the report, how it is generated, how it is used, and actions that are to be taken upon reviewing the output.

Supply Fulfillment Process Review

To complete the supply fulfillment cycle and to ensure programs are operating at peak efficiency, dealership and VAR management need feedback. Just walking by the help supply desk and “touching base” is not good enough. Management needs to know how customers feel about their experiences. Most dealers have customers they call on when a referral is needed. Think back … How are referrals secured? Something is done, and the customer offers positive comment. As more details are given, the dealer’s testimonial bank begins to take shape. Getting feedback on supply fulfillment is no different. Dealers should prepare simple one-page “comment cards” to be given out as supply fulfillment services conclude. In addition to comment cards, on-line survey tools can be used to check the pulse of the customer.  Some FREE sites include:

Feedback on the supply fulfillment process is final line of defense to ensure customers’ needs are being met.

… In Summary

Putting a supply fulfillment program into practice is more than getting a request and shipping toner. An outline or guide should be developed so steps can be taken to ensure the fulfillment program is followed. A good outline includes breakouts sections detailing actions for:

  • Software installation
  • Management of the device fleet
  • False positive alerting
  • Customer out of stock
  • Handling multiple supply item requests
  • Supply chain management
  • Use of the service software alert management tools
  • Supply alert reporting and management
  • Supply Fulfillment Process Review

Value added resellers put themselves in a better position when they are in control of business practices.

Dealers and VARs committed to documenting practices for each of the areas above will have a sound foundation on which to build their fulfillment program. Avoiding steps or phases in the program invites profitability erosion as supply fulfillment becomes a reactionary process.